Updated from 7:52 p.m. ET to add commentary on QE3 from High Frequency Economics, and clarify Apple's cash position.
NEW YORK (
) -- If there's one thing that Wall Street seems sure about, it's that
should be a
holding in just about everyone's portfolio.
The iconic maker of everything-i reports its fiscal first-quarter results after Tuesday's closing bell, and the expectations are where it seems they always are: Sky high.
Consider this: The consensus view is calling for Apple to report a profit of $10.08 a share revenue of $38.85 billion for the three months ended in December. If the company hits that, it will have delivered sequential revenue growth of 37% from its fourth-quarter total of $28.27 billion.
That's pretty amazing for a mature technology company, even if Apple did disappoint slightly in its last quarter as consumers held off on iPhone purchases ahead of the release of what turned out to be the iPhone 4S (rather than the iPhone 5). On a year-over-year basis, the top-line expansion is an even more impressive 45% off its fiscal 2011 first-quarter total of $26.74 billion.
Now realize that an in-line quarter would be a disappointment, especially after the hiccup in the December-ended period was so quickly forgotten. It was mea culpa time on the buy side with analysts apologizing for not properly accounting for how the iPhone product cycle and market forces created by the addition of new carriers would impact results.
Those same market forces are believed to have worked in the company's favor this time around, and judging by the positive commentary in the past few months from its wireless service provider partners --
-- Apple looks primed to get back to its winning ways.
That's got Wall Street betting on a record year for Apple. The consensus revenue view of fiscal 2012 ending in September sits at $141.36 billion, and if Apple just hits that, it will have more than doubled from the $65.23 billion total it racked up in the fiscal year ending in September 2010. If you've ever wondered why Apple is chasing down
for the title of world's largest company, that kind of growth off such a large base (not to mention the $26 billion in cash and short-term securities on the balance sheet as well as another $55 billion in long-term securities) is your answer.
Wall Street's gushing sentiment on Apple never wavered despite its miss and the bulls remain in abundance ahead of this report with 51 of the 56 analysts covering the stock at either strong buy or buy and the 12-month median price target at $515. The stock closed Monday at $427.41, and it's up nearly 25% in the past year, hitting a 52-week high of $431.37 last Thursday.
The commentary from Evercore Partners, which has an outperform rating and $600 price target on Apple, is typically glowing.
"Even vs. a weak consumer macro, we see Apple effectively creating its own growth through innovative hardware+software engineering in a sea of otherwise commodity devices," the firm said in a mid-January write-up on the company, which is on Evercore's conviction buy list. "We see near-term momentum booming with the new iPhone 4S, iPad and Macs taking PC share(led by MacBook Air), with long-term longevity driven by Apple now pioneering a thin-client platform fed by increasingly iCloud-based computing."
For the quarter, Evercore said it's well-above consensus, and its long-term thesis notes the company "still has just small share of massive ultimate markets, including 5% of global cell-phones and PCs."
Tomorrow's conference call will give Wall Street another dose of CEO Tim Cook, who will likely face a battery of questions on future product launches, such as a potential Apple television and the iPad 3, which recent speculation says could be launched as soon as March.
Check out TheStreet's quote page for Apple for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
This is a peak earnings week with 112
companies reporting their quarterly results, including 12 components of the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
, according to
. Tuesday brings five blue-chip reports along with a smattering of tech heavyweights beyond Apple.
In deference to its index-topping performance in 2011,
gets the spotlight treatment here. The hamburger giant is reporting its fiscal fourth-quarter results before the opening bell, and Wall Street is looking for earnings of $1.30 a share in the December-ended period on revenue of $6.81 billion.
Mickey D's has been on a tear for more than two years now as the company successfully revamped its breakfast menu, improved its coffee offerings and introduced healthier choices like fruit smoothies with great success. The shares are up 35% in the past 12 months, hitting a 52-week high of $102.22 on Friday.
The buy side is still bullish though with 20 of the 26 analysts covering McDonald's at strong buy (8) or buy (12) vs. 5 holds and one underperform. The median 12-month price target is $106, implying potential upside of 5% from Monday's close at $100.95.
The earnings track record is strong with McDonald's delivering eight straight beats of the consensus profit view with an average upside surprise of 2.6%. Sterne Agee is one of the bulls on McDonald's, and the firm reiterated a buy rating on the stock on Friday with a $106 price target, while also increasing its expectations for the quarter to a profit of $1.30 a share on revenue of $6.78 billion.
"Our investment thesis remains intact as we believe that MCD will continue to gain market share in the QSR
quick service restaurant industry given significant marketing power, an entrenched value perception, menu innovation and upgraded facilities," wrote analyst Lynne Collier. "Accordingly, we are reiterating our buy rating and view MCD as one of our top picks in the restaurant industry."
Collier said the firm's checks indicate McDonald's saw strong performance on the top line throughout the calendar fourth quarter, and she's looking for global same-store sales growth of 6% for December. On the conference call, Collier is expecting some color from management on upcoming new menu offerings and the progress of remodeling/reimaging efforts, as well as the usual detail on operating performance in different business segments and geographies.
At current levels, the forward price-to-earnings multiple on McDonald's shares is at 17.6X, below that of
at 23.6X but higher than the S&P 500 at 12.4X.
The forward annual dividend yield of 2.8% should go a long ways toward mitigating any valuation concerns for investors, given how the Big Mac maker has backed up the surge in the shares with solid operating performance. For example, an in-line revenue performance will represent top-line growth of 10.1% from last year's equivalent total of $6.21 billion.
Check out TheStreet's quote page for McDonald's for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
The other Dow components opening the books on Tuesday are
Johnson & Johnson
The rest of the a.m. roster features
International Game Technology
Other notables reporting after the bell include
Advanced Micro Devices
Tuesday's economic calendar is clear but the Fed's Open Market Committee is slated to kick off its first policy meeting of 2012, a two-day affair that is the subject of some
since the financial crisis.
Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at
High Frequency Economics
, doesn't expect to see QE3 on Wednesday despite the fact that there are some new faces on the open market committee.
"We appreciate that the rotation of regional Fed presidents on the voting roster likely increases the odds of more QE -- the three dissenters from last year have been replaced by only two likely naysayers this year, Messrs. Lacker and Lockhart -- but we still think the odds are against," he wrote in commentary released late Monday.
He also argues that more bond-buying by the central bank isn't necessary because the key objectives of such actions have already been achieved.
"Long-term rates are at historically low levels, with a very flat yield curve," he said. "Fear of deflation faded some time ago, as core inflation has jumped from a low of 0.6% to 2.2%. The real trade-weighted dollar is close to all-time lows, while asset prices have, for the most part, rebounded strongly."
The banking sector is also back on its feet, Shepherdson says, noting for instance that lending to industrial and commercial companies was up 10.2% year-over-year in December. Of course, this opinion that QE3 is unnecessary isn't likely to be a welcome one
, but Shepherdson is sticking to his guns.
"We should point out here that we were very much in favor of QE initially, and we argued that the Fed was making a big mistake when it ended the first round of asset purchases," he added. "We have no religious objections to QE but it is only appropriate under very specific conditions. Those conditions no longer apply in the U.S., so we think QE3 would be a significant mistake."
At the very least, the market will be treated to the must-see television that is a Ben Bernanke press conference.
The broad market was a
on Monday as the problem of what to do with Greece continues to vex the eurozone. The action in the U.S. would seem to indicate minimal worries stateside but it's no secret how quickly that can turn.
And finally, Monday's
was a busy one with
beating both its own expectations and Wall Street's with a quarterly profit of $1.51 a share on revenue of nearly $2 billion and saying it's making significant progress in getting its manufacturing capacity back on track after the devastating floods in Thailand last year.
also drew buyers as management said it believes it's seen a bottom in the downturn in IT spending.
was the big loser as the company wrapped up a six-month strategic review without an acquisition offer. Investors greeted its plan to stay independent with a 15%-plus sell-off that could get even uglier when Tuesday's opening bell sounds.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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